Published: July 6th 2009July 6th 2009
Sailing through the Alderney Race
going past the Island of Alderney
Through the Alderney Race and onto the Channel Islands.
We left Cherbourg on the 28th of May, making sure we had got our tide times right to head down through the Alderney Race which is quite infamous for its rate of tidal streams that run between the island of Alderney and the mainland coast of France. We had to catch the tide as it turned toward the south and then go with this tide, hopefully all the way down to the Island of Guernsey and into the marina there called St Peter Port. RYA navigation courses highlight the areas of Cherbourg, Alderney, St Peter Port, Sark and St Helier on the Island of Jersey and we were looking forward to the challenge of getting the navigation right as if we got it wrong we were in for some long slow and potentially pretty rough trips.
We followed the eddying tide along the coast from Cherbourg and encountered some pretty rough water where it met the south turning tide. The seas were short, steep and sharp and we had not taken our boat through these conditions before so it was interesting to see how she handled them. She powered through
St Peter Port
Guernsey, with a morning fog rolling in
and at the appropriate waypoint we turned south and headed through the race which was calm as and we ended up sailing / motor sailing to St Peter Port where we tied up to the visitors pontoons on the outer harbour, some 48 miles from Cherbourg.
The inner harbour is entered and exited through a sill system which is essentially like a dam wall that keeps the water depth in the marina at a constant depth. You either enter or leave the marina when there is enough water over the sill. It was a really interesting feature to watch the tide turn and water either pour into or out of the sill. By passing through the Alderney Race we were now entering into some serious tidal ranges but they were going to get bigger and bigger the further south we went toward the North Brittany Coast.
St Peter Port is the main port / business centre of the island and has a great range of shops for all different types of food and anything else you needed, including a great charity store that sold second hand books at even cheaper prices than our favourite on the Isle of
Wight. We had tired of instant coffee and we were longing for our espresso machine that we left at home for Leah and Wal to enjoy. Obviously we could not take such a machine on this trip so we reverted back to the old favourite Italian style espresso machine that you sit on top of the stove. Not quite as good as the sunbeam at home but 1000 percent better than instant.
St Peter Port also has a great chandlery where we met a young lady who was very interested to find out all she could about diving in Australia where she and her boyfriend intended to go. She must have been impressed with what we told her because she continued to give us a staff discount of 20% off everything we bought there including buying a whole heap of LED bulbs to replace the halogen down lights in the saloon and all of our reading lamps. The LED bulbs draw so little power compared to the halogen ones and helps keep our batteries going a bit longer between charges.
Guernsey is a really nice island and we did the odd circumnavigation via the local bus system. You
Island of Sark
Havre Grosselin Harbour
could get on and do the whole trip of about an hour and a half for 60p. The island was settled originally by the French and the Vikings so their native language is totally bamboozling for us but of course everyone speaks English and despite their protestations about their links to England, all speak with very heavy English accents. Even though the island is only about 13 miles long and just a few wide, there were quite diverse areas, including some beautiful stately homes and gardens toward the centre of the island, along with windswept fisherman’s shacks on the exposed northern coast. The coastline is very rocky and craggy and because of the tides, you often saw boats lying on their sides on the sand waiting for the water to return and have them floating again.
We took in a night at the movies and Nik and I saw Angels and Demons, which we were really looking forward to after having bought the book in the second hand store. The cinema was in a complex that was designed to cater for conventions and the like and while there were about 4 theatres, they were all very small, having about
50 seats in each.
We decided that the most convenient method of getting Luke from London was to fly up from Guernsey and pick him up and then fly back to Guernsey and continue on from there. We were able to organise some cheap flights and then had plenty of time to have a good look around the three main islands before Luke arrived from home.
Berthing up on the visitors pontoons was really pretty comfortable. The pontoons, whilst not having shore power did have plenty of fresh water and with our little generator providing all of our power needs, we were comfortable as anything. The marina is pretty busy with lots of English yachts visiting the area or using it as a transit for trips to and or from the south and also for heaps of French yachts cruising the area.
We got to meet lots of people and made friends with a group of Frenchies who lived in Paris and were on a bare boat charter in the area. A couple of them went diving one day for spider crabs which are a bit like our spanner crabs back home and when they came back
they had sack full and quickly filled up a bag full for us. No one else on board wanted any so I had a crab feast for lunch the next day, fresh picked crab, crusty baguettes and a cold beer - pretty damm good.
We went over to the Island of Sark which was only about 5 miles away and had a couple of nights staying on moorings, the first night was in the bay of Havre Gosselin and it was a very impressive place to be. The little bay is surrounded by very high cliffs and not far from where you tie up to the moorings; there is a narrow channel where the tide pours through. There are also a few sea caves in the bay which can be explored at the slack tide and we took the dinghy over and rowed around checking the place out.
There is another smaller, privately owned island just near the moorings which is owned by two brothers who obviously have more wealth than one could imagine. They built their own castle which took 400 tradesmen working 7 days a week till all hours of the night, about 3 years to
build. They have their own helicopters to get to and from the island as well as personal bodyguards to escort them wherever they go. They have very sophisticated surveillance systems covering the entry points at the island so going for a visit to say g’day was not going to be an option. Despite that piece of modernisation near Sark, it did not detract from how good Sark is.
We went ashore Sark and climbed the very high track up to the top and explored the island as best we could in the time we had. There are no cars on the island, only horse and cart and the odd tractor. It is full of boutique hotels and B & B’s, three pubs, a few restaurants and cafes and plots of land that people grow their own veg for their own consumption and to sell at local markets. The Island of Sark has the only remaining feudal system operating in the world today and the population of 600 exists in harmony and seems to cope with the pressures of modern life quite well with the only law enforcement system being two volunteer Police Officers drawn from the locals.
met the harbour master whose wife runs the local tourist shop, who we also met and talked to of course. The harbour master came on board for a cuppa one morning and we chatted for ages and it was great to hear how the place ran and what is was like for him and his family to live on the island. We were also able to acquire a freshly caught crayfish for a very reasonable price which was quickly dispatched into the most delicious dish I have ever, ever tasted in my life. I Simply cut the lobster up into segments, shell on, cracked the big claws and then sautéed it in a little veg oil and then put the lid on and continue to sauté and steam it until cooked - I can still taste it, I kid you not. If only I had all my scuba gear on board, there might have been a few more that hit the pot.
The weather forecast for the next night was not favourable for where we were with strong winds and seas coming into the mooring area so instead of heading back to St Peter Port we opted to head
around to the other side o the Island. Should have gone back to St Peter Port. While we were protected from the strong westerly winds, the westerly swell made its way around the island and made our mooring a real mongrel. The boat rocked from side to side all through the night and by about 2.00am I had had enough. We were being tossed from side to side in our bed and things were banging and crashing in cupboards and got up and let out a bit of sail and stayed up top, steering the boat up into the swell so Debs and the girls could get some sleep.
The weather was not due to improve so we decided to cut our losses and headed back to Guernsey the next day and after a couple of more days there, headed down to Jersey to check that Island out.
The marina at Jersey, St Helier is also controlled by a sill and after our 34 mile passage we only had to wait about half an hour on the visitor’s pontoon till there was enough water over the sill for us to enter and tie up. St Helier is a
Island of Sark tidal race
Narrow channel just near where we were moored up, the tide races through here
much more commercialised area than St Peter Port and whilst we enjoyed our time there I would not favour it over St Peter Port and definitely not over Sark, on a good mooring day that is. One advantage is that it did have a very good little Asian store so I stocked up on Thai curry pastes, chilli sauce, tofu for the vego in the fam, jasmine rice and a few other little treats.
We went back to Guernsey the day before we were due to head up to pick Luke up as we had flights booked that morning. We got to the airport in plenty of time and had a text from Luke to say he had landed and was on time. We had tickets booked to fly back that afternoon and were looking very happy that our best laid plans were going to work out just fine. We were just having a cup of coffee waiting for the flight when my phone rang and it was an immigration officer from Heathrow. They had held Luke back from entering the country and it was quite obvious they really had no plans of letting him in.
Island of Sark
Main method of transport on the island
problem was that he had a ticket to fly back next April and that was way out of the 6 month automatic tourist visa period that Australians are extended. None of us could believe it and despite all of our protestations and assurances, we left Guernsey fully believing that we were going to Heathrow, not to pick Luke up but to say goodbye to him as he was sent back to Australia.
We had been told to contact immigration again when we arrived in London and the immigration officer must have been a bit convinced by the facts that I had told her and she advised that it would now be up to the Guernsey Immigration officials to decide if he could be let through and I would have to contact them. This I did of course and was fortunate to be able to speak to a really nice lady who was fully aware of how flexible travel plans were for people on yachts and after we had a good talk for some time she said she had no problems with Luke being let through and coming to Guernsey.
She told us that she would relay this to
He is finally here
and arent the girls happy about that
London and hopefully there would be enough time for Luke to get from Heathrow across to Gatwick. We had originally arranged for him to catch the bus which was going to cost about 10 pounds but because time was getting quite critical, I told him to grab a cab and we would sort out the cost later. Long story cut short - he made the flight, the cab fare sent us bankrupt and we were on our way to Guernsey with one very tired, confused and excited young Australian man and one very happy, excited and relieved Australian girl.
So that was the mad Monday that Luke arrived and we decided that we would spend two or three days letting him get over his flight, get used to being on the boat and have a little look around Guernsey before we headed for North Brittany. We spent the next few days getting the bikes out for a few rides around and with memories of the crayfish of Sark, I tracked down a commercial diving operation and was able to negotiate to buy a really good second hand scuba tank and weight belt so now I had all the gear on board, hopefully not having to use it to clear a fishing net from our prop but to be able to add a few delicacies from the sea bed!
To be continued……………………………….